8 year-old me waiting for dinner: “Dad, I’m starving.”
My Dad: “No, Sara, you’re not.”
I wasn’t really starving, but we’ve all said it. We’re human, we get hungry. But struggling with hunger? Actually not having food to put on the table? That’s another story.
Once in a while (yet not often enough) I catch myself thinking about the things that I take for granted. A roof over my head. Family. Friends. A paycheck. A car. Health. A safe drinking supply. Opportunity. Clothing. A coat when the weather gets cold. Food. The list goes on, but let’s focus on food for a minute – it’s the source of nutrition and sustenance that we all need in order to survive. While most of us are fortunate enough to benefit from some if not all of the above on a day-to-day basis, there are people in our own backyard, walking the same streets that we do, struggling to find something as simple as a hot nutritious meal at the end of a long day.
After volunteering with a group of Orr Fellows at Second Helpings, I found myself in one of these contemplative moods. The opportunity arose to contribute to a good cause alongside my Fellow peers and I thought, “New opportunity to get to know my new friends and new city better? Yes.” So I jumped at the chance, but knew next to nothing about the organization or its mission. In the end I walked away enlightened and grateful to be in a program and city that actively cares for others, and let me explain why.
First, here’s a question. Do you ever wonder what happens to the large amounts of food sitting on the shelves of wholesalers, restaurants, and retailers when the expiration date printed on the plastic wrapping creeps up faster than expected?
The answer: landfills.
At the same time, more than 80,000 children in the Indy metro area struggle with hunger and nearly 15% of senior citizens in Indiana face hunger – not even counting everyone in between.
Do we see the disconnect here?
In 1998, three Indianapolis chefs realized the potential to alleviate both these issues of hunger and unnecessary food waste with one solution: Second Helpings – a community kitchen.
Today an entire network of volunteers and staff members collect donated perishable and overstocked food, prepare nutritious meals for thousands of hungry children and adults each day, and then distribute them free of charge through local social service agencies in the Greater Indianapolis area. In addition, Second Helpings provides an avenue for unemployed and underemployed individuals to transform their lives through a culinary job training program.
We learned this and more during our first 15 minutes as we got a tour of the building, and then it was actually time to take part in the action. After we listened to the safety rules of the kitchen, put on our aprons and hats (or stylish hairnets for those who forgot a hat), we started chopping. Tomatoes at one table, beef at the other. Simple task, yes – but the results? Ready-to-go ingredients for the sauces, soups, stews, and more concocted by the chefs on the other side of the kitchen. I didn’t have time to watch the clock – I was too busy admiring those around me diligently working, selflessly giving their time to ensure healthy meals could be delivered to those in need. Every person we met had their own story, greeted us with a smile, thanked us for being there. It’s inspiring to see people care about something, then turn around and make great things happen.
I’ll let these numbers speak for themselves:
over 8 million meals have been prepared and delivered,
over 21 million pounds of food have been rescued,
volunteers have served for over 368,127 total hours,
and 579 individuals have graduated from the Culinary Job Training program.
Not only was I able to connect with my Fellow peers in a new setting, and contribute to a worthy cause, but I was also reminded of two valuable lessons that day:
Give thanks for what you have.
Give something of yourself to others – your time, it’s priceless.
“Life isn’t about getting and having, it’s about giving and being.” – Kevin Kruse